Monday, November 24, 2008

Time for a depression?

Several years ago, I suggested a long run of high gas prices might be helpful, primarily because it would encourage car buyers to ask for vehicles more efficient than the ones on the market. That's happened, obviously, and although gas prices are on the downward slide now, I think enough car makers are committed to the new production lines that it won't be easy to switch back to huge fleets of gas guzzlers.

Besides, who's going to trust the cost of fuel to stay low?

Now, of course, there are much more interesting bits of economic news to chew on. Bank bailouts, automaker bailouts, home foreclosures, car loan delinquencies (nearly $23 billion at risk!), etcetera.

I've tried to be circumspect about all this, but why don't we at least entertain the idea that a good long recession, perhaps amounting to a depression, might actually be a good thing?

In the short run, obviously, the answer would be: No, that would be a Very Bad Thing for most people. But maybe in the long run, a depression would be the harbinger of a time of great opportunity, innovation, wealth and positive social change.

Would that be too much to hope for? I'd like to hear the well-reasoned, dispassionate argument to the contrary...

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